State the different types of bio-geochemical cycles and explain the importance of those cycles.
To maintain the concentrations of different naturally occurring substances in the environment, there are mechanisms that constantly recycle these substances. These recycling mechanisms are called biogeochemical cycles. So, biogeochemical cycles are the cyclic flow of nutrients between non-living environment and living organisms.
Types of Biogeochemical Cycles
There are two major types of biogeochemical cycles
1. Gaseous cycle: These are the biogeochemical cycles in which the reservoir pool is the atmosphere or hydrosphere. For example, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle etc.
2. Sedimentary cycles: These are the biogeochemical cycles in which the reservoir pool is generally lithosphere. For example, Phosphorous cycle, Sulphur cycle etc.
The concentration of nitrogen in the atmosphere is about 78%. Nitrogen is essential for all life forms. It is a structural component of many important bio-molecules such as DNA, RNA and vitamins.
The nitrogen cycle involves conversion of nitrogen from its elemental form in the atmosphere into simpler molecules in the soil and water. These further get converted into more complex molecules in living beings. Finally, the complex molecules are reduced and released back into the atmosphere as simple nitrogen molecules.
Fixing of atmospheric nitrogen involve the following steps:
1. Nitrogen fixation: It is the process wherein atmospheric nitrogen is converted into water-soluble nitrates. This step is performed by organisms like Rhizobium, Azotobacter and blue-green algae.
Oxygen is an important component of life. We cannot survive without oxygen. It comprises about 21% of atmospheric air. It is also present in dissolved form in water bodies and helps in the survival of aquatic life. In combined form, it is found both in Earth’s crust and in the air. In the air, it occurs as carbon dioxide. In the crust, it is present as oxides of most metals and silicon and also as carbonate, sulphate, nitrate and other minerals.
Oxygen is also a part of several essential bio-molecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids and fats. There are processes that utilize atmospheric oxygen. At the same time, the balance of oxygen in the atmosphere is also maintained.
- Oxygen is utilized during respiration, combustion and formation of oxides of nitrogen.
- Oxygen is returned to the atmosphere in only one major way, and that is photosynthesis.
All organic substances are made up of carbon. Fats, vitamins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and proteins contain carbon as a structural component. Carbonate salts form endoskeletons and exoskeletons of many animals.
- Glucose, which is a source of food, is utilized by organisms to produce energy during respiration. During this process, glucose is broken down in the presence/absence of oxygen to produce carbon dioxide.
- Another process that releases carbon dioxide is combustion or burning. Many substances release carbon dioxide on burning. Vehicular emissions, industrial fumes and the gases released during the process of cooking are some instances of release of carbon dioxide through combustion.
- Thus, carbon is cycled repeatedly through different forms by the various physical and biological activities.